An executor is someone who is named in a will to carry out your final wishes and settle your estate. He or she will pay your outstanding bills, pay for funeral expenses, and distribute your property as you describe in your will.
It is important to know the duties of an executor or personal representative both when you are named and as you consider who should be an executor. Having someone trustworthy and reliable to fulfill this role will ensure that your last wishes are satisfied. Of course, if you are an executor, it is important to have someone who can help you carry out your duties, such as an experienced probate attorney.
The Duties of an Executor
An executor can be personally liable if he or she fails to manage funds or carry out their duties properly. As such, fully understanding your responsibilities in this role is critical. The following are just some of the duties that an executor will likely have to undertake.
Examining the Will and Trust Documents
The will and any trust documents will be the personal representative’s instruction guide for carrying out his or her role. It is also usually the executor’s obligation to offer the will for probate. In fact, the executor generally cannot begin distributing assets without the approval of the probate judge. The personal representative will obtain letters testamentary from the court, which authorizes him or her to act on behalf of the estate.
Notify Proper Parties
The executor will advise the bank, credit card companies, government agencies, and any other necessary parties of the decedent’ passing. Notification often goes along with closing accounts, taking inventory, and gathering assets for distribution. California also requires notification by publication as well.
Managing Estate Assets
While the estate is in the probate process, it is the executor’s duty to maintain the estate assets. It is often a good idea to create a bank account so that incoming funds can be deposited and bills can be paid from one account that holds estate assets. The executor should be sure to keep current on regular bills, such as mortgages, utilities, and other ongoing obligations.
Filing an Inventory with the Court
The court will require that you submit a list of all of the estate process. This is just one step in the distribution process. The personal representative will obtain possession of all of the decedent’s assets and determine their value. This valuation process may require the services of an appraiser. The executor is also required to file ongoing income and expense records throughout the pendency of the probate process.
Paying Debts and Making Distributions
Finally, once the estate assets have been collected, valued, and inventoried, the executor will pay debts, including taxes, and begin the distribution process. Only after the debts are paid can distribution occur. Distribution will be carried out as the will provides.
Getting Legal Help with the Probate Process
Executors have a heavy burden, but the process can be significantly simplified with the support of a qualified probate attorney. Contact Alexander Biddle at Biddle Law to get more information.